Could OSU-Cascades bring international students to Bend?

University is working out a contract with global recruiter INTO

By Tyler Leeds / The Bulletin

Published Mar 28, 2014 at 12:01AM

Only 4 percent of the student population at Oregon State University-Cascades Campus comes from outside Oregon, but as the university plans for its expansion into a four-year college, it’s developing a plan to ensure international students play a big role on campus.

In Corvallis, a partnership between OSU and INTO, a group that recruits international students to American universities, has brought 1,400 students to the main campus. The international students, most of whom come from China, pay the university’s out-of-state tuition rate of about $34,000 a year, roughly $12,000 more than Oregon students pay for tuition and housing. In Bend, the partnership may not only bring additional tuition revenue, but a developing partnership with INTO may help the university fund the construction of its planned 300-bed dorm on land recently acquired near the Southwest Chandler Avenue and Century Drive roundabout.

Kelly Sparks, associate vice president for finance and strategic planning, said the university and INTO haven’t finalized a deal, but she did note such a public-private partnership could result in INTO operating the residence hall and earning the revenue associated with rent, or OSU-Cascades could rent the entire dorm back from INTO and manage the building.

“There are also models that are hybrids of those two paths, and there are many different ways it could develop,” Sparks said earlier this month.

No matter what the arrangement, Sparks said OSU-Cascades would still manage community life in the dorm. Additionally, while she wasn’t able to give a specific number of students, she said international students would make up “only a small proportion of the overall student population,” which is expected to grow to 5,000 by 2025.

“We believe a diverse student population leads to higher academic success,” Sparks said. “We would really love to have a mix of Central Oregonians, people from around the region and international students.”

Becky Johnson, an OSU vice president and the highest-ranking administrator in Bend, noted that INTO allows the university to more effectively recruit and serve international students.

“They have hundreds of recruiters around the world, and have a system to help students become adjusted to life here,” Johnson said.

In Corvallis, INTO students spend a year enrolled in a pathway program, which has a strong emphasis on English language instruction, but also introduces students to the cultural norms of American classrooms.

“One thing we see is that students are not accustomed to raising their hand and asking questions during class,” said Amy McGowan, the INTO OSU center director. “It’s a big challenge, and one reason partnering with INTO offers benefits.”

During the pathway year, students spend some time in classes that are split between INTO students and American students, but the international students also participate in additional instruction geared toward helping them overcome the language barrier. After successfully completing the pathway year, students can continue at OSU in a four-year degree program as sophomores. Some INTO students in Corvallis, however, attend for shorter periods and focus on language instruction. The program isn’t only for undergraduates, and OSU-Cascades has stated it intends to recruit international students for a graduate program in business.

“Of course, being a land grant university, many students come from rural pockets of Oregon,” McGowan said. “As much as it is exciting to be an international student in Corvallis, it’s equally interesting to be from rural Oregon and to be meeting students from all over the world. It really works both ways.”

— Reporter: 541-633-2160, tleeds@bendbulletin.com